John Carmack talks the future of high-res displays at QuakeCon 2013
John Carmack, co-founder and technical director of id Software, gave a wide-ranging and detailed talk at QuakeCon 2013 in Dallas yesterday, addressing a series of issues that affect developers and consumers in the gaming industry. Well-known for his work on games like Doom, Quake and Rage, of particular interest were Carmack's comments on display technology and the way in which it may affect next-generation hardware like head-mounted displays.
"I had a couple of experiences, just in the last couple months," Carmack said. "I was looking at something, I was in a shop, I saw something up there and was startled when it moved, that it was a video signage rather than something statically printed there."
"We are really most of the way there with display technology, when I am mistaking displays for reality, but there are still things that can get better on it."
Viewing angle is almost a "dead issue," according to Carmack, and the gaps between pixels are also improving as screen resolutions gets better. Another area he pointed to that could have a dramatic effect on all areas of gaming is the fact that display technology is already "amazingly cheap" and getting more affordable all the time.
"There is a picture of me that was in some magazine that showed me with two LCD screens, square aspect ratio, that were 1280 x 1024 many, many years ago," Carmack said. "I paid $10,000 each for those IBM displays. And if you think about it, a couple hundred dollars now gets you a good 1920 x 1080p display. That's the miracle of modern electronics and that's a really, really good thing."
Carmack called the movement in the display industry to develop and sell high-resolution, 4K technology "almost ridiculous," but "the electronics people need something new to sell, so they're going to make 4K happen," he said. One advantage this marketing push will have is the improvement in technology for head-mounted displays. As we've seen with hardware like the Oculus Rift, there's enormous potential under the surface, especially as the screen resolution improves.
"It seems ludicrous, but we're going to have 4K tablets and mini-tablets in not too many years, and that'll make just a dandy head-mounted display," Carmack said. "So there's going to be some value coming out of it, but I think that is going beyond the knee of curve in benefits to consumers again."